Research is the investigation of new and existing knowledge in order to confirm known facts as well as to develop them further whenever possible. It can also be used to establish new facts based either on old knowledge or newly discovered knowledge. The perfect research is very hard to achieve and very rare. However, it is possible to achieve it depending on the task which is being investigated at the time. If the task is direct and based on already established and undisputed facts, then the perfect research is possible. In spite of this, the achievement of the perfect research tends to be marred when researchers come up with different interpretations for an established fact mostly due to bias or in an attempt to make their research conform to mainstream ideas.
Warren, in his book History and the Historians (p.65), when commenting on Leopold Von Ranke’s influence in the writing of historical research states:
I have suggested that Ranke’s writing of History is more complex than our original picture of him as the would-be scientific/impartial prober of archives and historical technician. However, it is clear that Ranke’s fellow historians frequently misunderstood and simplified his position.
The researchers that came after Ranke and considered themselves to be of the Rankean school tended to adapt or distort his research methods to suit their personal agendas or political circumstances. This in my opinion casts doubt on the perfection of their researches.
One would be tempted to agree with the statement that there is no hope of doing perfect research because of the different styles or ways of thinking of different researchers. Researchers, even when working on the same topic or subject, hardly ever come to the same conclusions. Elmes, Kantowitz, and Roediger in their book Research Methods in Psychology (p.12), state that questions derive from actual research and it is therefore apparent that even experts do not conduct perfect research. Furthermore, a researcher may be influenced by his ideology or school of thought. If, for example, he were a Marxist historian writing a political history, his work would most likely be very influenced by his ideological stance. Therefore, Marxist and non-Marxist researchers would end up with totally different conclusions to the same problem. The use of secondary sources during research tends to expose the researcher to the prejudices or biases of the authors of the sources which at times are very difficult to view objectively. The researcher ends up being blindly led by the opinions of his sources and this eventually distorts his conclusions leading to an imperfect research.
Moreover, an idea or an opinion which is considered fact today may not necessarily be a fact in the future. I suggest that a perfect research should be able to withstand the test of time and retain its basic truths. This is rarely the case considering that man evolves and opinions change over time. A mere two centuries ago, it was a common belief worldwide that man and all the other creatures on earth were created by a divine being over seven days. The coming of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution changed all that (mostly in academic circles) and it is now considered fact that all creatures evolved from more primitive forms to what they are today. What remains to be seen is whether the theory of evolution will remain a fact tomorrow or whether new research will reveal it to be irrelevant.
It is my belief that the perfect research is possible but this can only be achieved if its conclusions are beyond reproach by the critics within the field in which the research is being conducted. The level of perfection of a research can also be determined based on whether the research is simple or not. If it is simple then the research would be faultless or perfect because the answers to the research question or problem can easily be gotten. For example, if one wanted to assemble a new desktop computer and had no prior knowledge of how to do it correctly, all he would have to do would be to read the user manual that came with the computer and he would get the information instantly. On the other hand, if the United Nations wanted to know whether sanctions would work on a ‘rogue’ state, a research carried out on this would not give a definite answer because it is yet to be proven that sanctions are completely effective.
In conclusion, to achieve a perfect research especially in a field that has no definite result is very difficult and the best a researcher can do is to try to aim for a result that is as close as possible to perfect. The question that arises from the former statement is this; how does the researcher define the ideal or perfect result? I believe that the researcher should have the freedom to choose to the best of his knowledge what he believes to be the ideal. In the end, no opinion or result especially of a new research can be termed perfect simply because there are those who would find it perfect while there are others who would find it otherwise. Not everyone would be satisfied by the results hence the need for new researches in the same areas of study. These researches lead to my belief that there indeed is hope of doing perfect research because this is usually achieved through many trials and errors.
Elmes, D.G., Kantowitz, B.H., & Roediger, H.L.(2005). Research Methods in Psychology. Stamford. Cengage Learning.
Warren, J., (1999). History and the Historians. London: Hodder Murray.